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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cats Have Therapists, Too

“It’s all pretty far-out, Cat. You know what I mean?”

These are the kind of conversations you get around old people who have lived with a lot of cats.
The Cat stuck her face in the bowl and munched while I massaged her fluffy, thick back. Patting her was like patting a wide-beamed, long-haired Scottish sheep. The fur was sort of dry and oily at the same time. It left my hands smelling of the cast-off cellar rug, the one that my husband, as the one who promises Yes! Yes! I will vacuum it—but somehow never does—the rug that is an in-home super-fund site, redolent of fuel oil, cement dust, flea spray, cat hair and kitty litter, plus the assorted paints and chemicals which are stored down there. 

This icky basement is the place where our PTSD cat story began and is still the place to which it reboots whenever Kimi feels threatened. Even after six years of safety and kid gloves, she remains an anxious kitty. She’s blonde, and stuffed-toy-fluffy with a sweet doll’s face--but not the pushed in muzzle--of a Persian. She’s heavy and square, what, in the Cat Fancy is referred to as “cobby-bodied.”  She might be the offspring of some hobby breeder’s accident, a Ragdoll, or a Birman, and who knows what else, getting together. Anyhow, we’ve never had a cat like this one before, although, that’s what we say to all the special kitties who have come to live here over the years. She arrived through a friend, who found her, starving, tick infested, with a festering wound on one hip. She was terrified of human hands.

Kimi-Wah still has rules. There are rules about where she may be petted; rules about how she may be petted. Unlike most cats, she sometimes appreciates the sort of thumping you might bestow upon a small dog. She likes to have a blanket on the floor by the television. Here she sits and regards us from across the room as we couch-potato in the evening. Sometimes she calls to us with a plaintive little meow. Then one or the other of her people is supposed to get down on the floor with her and pat her—but only while she’s sitting on the fabric. You have to keep an eye on the tail. If that fluffy plume begins to flail, it’s time to stop.

Sometimes she calls for petting, but if she’s not on the rug, she’ll simply run away if you approach her. Sometimes she’ll run for her blanket and you will be allowed to pat her there, but, just as often as not, she’ll head to the cellar. Sometimes, I’ll follow her down there and hope to gather her up from the old flannel sheet that I’ve put down to keep her off that awful rug. I tell her “no one wants a basement cat.” I tell her that basement cats are almost as bad as ceiling cats, or under-the-couch cats—those top neurotics of the indoor cat world.

In six years, though, she has loosened up somewhat. She’s long-haired and needs daily grooming or she’ll mat and/or get sick from the hair-balls all that fur generates. I brush first and then gently comb. Initially, she had to be held down with all four hands available around here, even for the briefest beauty treatment. The whole time she’d snarl and growl and scream and try to slice us to ribbons with her needle claws.

These days, she’ll call to me while I’m at the computer—whiny meow after whiny meow—until I give up and fetch the brush and then head to the blanket. She’ll trot ahead of me, plumy tail waving and then lie down, all in anticipation of her beauty treatment. She’ll even let me hold her and trim her nails. Lately, she’s been getting up to couch-potato beside me in the evenings; she's even getting the hang of happy purrs.   

We didn't think she'd ever come round, but inch by inch, she has. It's been one of the longest lasting feline rehab projects we've ever undertaken, but in the end, her sweet sensitive self is beginning to reappear. 

A rare trip outside for the Wah

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sydell Voeller said...

She's beautiful! Such a sweet face. I'm glad to know she's mellowed over time.

Our tuxedo kitty is an under-the-bed Kitty when he gets frightened. The garbage truck outside on the street, a dog running by, the vacuum cleaner--you name it. Maybe it's because he was a shelter cat, I dunno. At any rate, of all the cats that have ever lived with us, he's one of my favorites.

Juliet Waldron said...

Thanks Sydell. I've been gone for a couple of days, and she's standing right here screaming at me wanting attention. Of course, soon as I lean to pick her up, she runs off, tail like a flag. I'm supposed to follow and capture and brush a little.